The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World

The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World

The dramatic, pulse-pounding story of Harry Truman’s first four months in office, when this unlikely, small-town Washington outsider had to take on Germany, Japan, Stalin, and the atomic bomb, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.Heroes are often defined as ordinary characters who get thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and through courage and a dash of l...

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Title:The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World
Author:A.J. Baime
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The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World Reviews

  • Nancy

    "Never had fate shoehorned so much history into such a short period." The Accidental President, A. J. Baime

    His first response was "No." Truman did not want the position of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's new Vice President.

    But FDR commanded it, and Harry S. Truman had to agree.

    FDR was not a well man when he took office for a fourth term. And when he died on April 12, 1945, Truman said, "the whole weight of the moon and stars fell on me."

    "Who the hell is Harry Truman?"

    The Accidental President b

    "Never had fate shoehorned so much history into such a short period." The Accidental President, A. J. Baime

    His first response was "No." Truman did not want the position of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's new Vice President.

    But FDR commanded it, and Harry S. Truman had to agree.

    FDR was not a well man when he took office for a fourth term. And when he died on April 12, 1945, Truman said, "the whole weight of the moon and stars fell on me."

    "Who the hell is Harry Truman?"

    The Accidental President by A. J. Baime focuses on Truman's first four months in the presidency, portraying Truman as an unknown 'Everyman' kept out of FDR's loop, but who quickly gained the nation's trust and approval while tackling huge challenges. He came into the job with only a layman's knowledge of international politics but scrambled to catch up. Monumental decisions awaited.

    Baime offers a condensed biography and profile of Truman and a detailed recreation of his first four months in the presidency. It is daunting to consider what this failed businessman with a high school degree had to contend with! His straight talking, systematic thinking, and unpretentious style was refreshing and his staff was surprised, and appreciative, of his competence.

    When Truman took office, the U.S. Army was fifty-seven miles from Berlin. General Dwight Eisenhower had discovered the horrors of Nazi death camps. General LeMay was ruthlessly firebombing Japan, while Japan was sending out mass suicide missions of Kamikaze pilots. Iwo Jima was captured but a third of the American landing force had died.

    The Soviets had suffered huge losses battling the Nazis. They wanted payback. Liberating Poland and Austria, they installed puppet regimes. Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote, "An iron curtain is drawn down upon their front."

    What to do with Germany had to be decided. Already the Soviets were plundering, hauling away everything they could. If the Soviets joined in war against Japan, they would want a part of Japan, too. Truman could not allow a Soviet presence in Japan.

    All of Central Europe's infrastructure had collapsed. Seven million persons were displaced without food or coal for heating. Children suffered from malnutrition.

    Yugoslavia wanted a piece of Italy. Chaing Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung had divided China.

    The United Nations was yet to be organized, it's future unknown.

    Would the U.S. recognize the new state of Israel?

    The American wartime economy was thriving, but what would happen when the war contracts ended and servicemen returned home?

    Churchill, who would soon lose his position as Prime Minister, Truman, and Stalin gathered at Potsdam. Truman need all his poker skills when facing off with Stalin. In his pocket was the upcoming test of the most terrible weapon ever known. If used against Japan, would it mean the end of civilization?

    Reading about this tumultuous time was exciting and disconcerting. The whole world I grew up in was determined during these first months of 1945.

    In his notes, Bamie states that history is a kind of myth that morphs through time as new evidence is unearthed and interpretations arise. The author spent three years sifting through original sources, diaries, and documents, ferreting out "new accession" including oral histories.

    I enjoyed this highly readable and informative study.

    I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair an unbiased review.

  • Jean

    I have read many biographies about Harry S. Truman (1884-1972). In this book A. J. Baime narrows the scope of the book to the first four months of the presidency. The author does provide some early history of Truman so the reader understands how events came about.

    On April 12, 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt summoned Truman to the White House to inform him of the death of FDR. Truman said his worst nightmare immediately became a reality. He had only been Vice President for three months and had not been i

    I have read many biographies about Harry S. Truman (1884-1972). In this book A. J. Baime narrows the scope of the book to the first four months of the presidency. The author does provide some early history of Truman so the reader understands how events came about.

    On April 12, 1945, Eleanor Roosevelt summoned Truman to the White House to inform him of the death of FDR. Truman said his worst nightmare immediately became a reality. He had only been Vice President for three months and had not been informed about anything by FDR. It would have been extremely difficult for anyone to follow in the footsteps of the charismatic Roosevelt. Truman was honest, decisive and hardworking. Some of the problems he faced that Baime goes into in depth are:

    1. The war with Germany

    2. The war with Japan

    3. Learned about the Manhattan project. Had to decide about using the bomb on Japan.

    4. The founding of the United Nations

    5. The devastation of Europe and the starving refugees. He sent President Hoover to Europe to deal with the logistics of feeding the people. He and General Marshall developed the Marshall Plan to deal with Europe.

    6. Russia posed challenges and different goals. Stalin failed to honor any of his agreements he made with Churchill and Roosevelt about Eastern Europe. Russia developed the atomic bomb and the cold war began.

    The book is well-written and meticulously researched. Baime is a journalist and the book is written in that style. Baime detailed a chronology as to how Truman transformed into a president and leader of the world. Baime makes history come alive and makes an enjoyable read. The book is well organized. Truman faced many difficult situations over his presidency that had great effect upon the world and the United States. In fact, Baime claims no other president in the history of the United States has faced such difficulties at the beginning of their presidency.

    I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Tony Messano does a good job narrating the book. Messano is a voice-over artist and audiobook narrator. This is my first experience with listening to Messano.

  • Mark Mortensen

    Harry Truman was sworn in as the 33rd U.S. President on April 12, 1945 following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first 1/3 of the book provides a background while the final 2/3 captures Truman’s first four months in office most notably as Commander-in-Chief during the final stages of World War II. When Truman took office the stage was already set for rapid historical events to unfold, but certain decisions still had to be made. The fall of Germany, the Postsdam Conference and t

    Harry Truman was sworn in as the 33rd U.S. President on April 12, 1945 following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first 1/3 of the book provides a background while the final 2/3 captures Truman’s first four months in office most notably as Commander-in-Chief during the final stages of World War II. When Truman took office the stage was already set for rapid historical events to unfold, but certain decisions still had to be made. The fall of Germany, the Postsdam Conference and the climactic mission of Enola Gay dropping Little Boy serve as a backdrop to Truman’s daily inner thoughts. Author A. J. Baime shows the strengths and weaknesses within the president who shunned the limelight.

    On a side note, in 2011 actor/screenwriter Ed Nelson and his lovely wife visited our home a few times. As a voting member of the Academy Awards he had visions for my WWI biography to be on the “Big Screen” and he would do the screenwriting. Ed was most famous for playing Dr. Michael Rossi on the TV series Peyton Place however for a few years in the mid-70’s he filled in for James Whitmore playing President Truman on stage, on the National Tour of "Give 'Em Hell, Harry". During his first visit Ed stood in our living room and performed a few segments as Truman!

  • Italo Italophiles

    This is a popularized history book about Harry Truman and the tumultuous first four months of his presidency. There was a lot more about Truman's history than I expected, stopping in its tracks the story of the first four months, but the background was helpful to get a measure of the man.

    Truman, a self-educated man who grew up in poverty, had some redeeming characteristics, such as his work ethic and his respect for knowledge and fact: “There is no substitute for a fact. When the facts are know

    This is a popularized history book about Harry Truman and the tumultuous first four months of his presidency. There was a lot more about Truman's history than I expected, stopping in its tracks the story of the first four months, but the background was helpful to get a measure of the man.

    Truman, a self-educated man who grew up in poverty, had some redeeming characteristics, such as his work ethic and his respect for knowledge and fact: “There is no substitute for a fact. When the facts are known, reasonable men do not disagree with respect to them.”

    He was also a white supremacist, with an all-out racist, Confederate-loving mother who was like Granny Clampet to the nth degree, two points treated too lightly in the book. The author admires Truman too much to be objective on other issues too, presenting in the end an uncritical elegy to Truman.

    I grew skeptical of the book when I started noticing factual errors, for example Alonzo Fields was from Indiana not Missouri, John Adams was the first president to live in the White House not George Washington. I'm not a historian, so the few errors I noticed made me think that there might be a whole lot more.

    The book is gossipy, readable, uncritical, full of trivia and snapshots of fascinating characters from history, but not as authoritative as I'd hoped. I received a review copy; this is my honest review.

  • HBalikov

    I met former President Harry S. Truman when he spent several days at my college. If you wanted to chat you could just walk up to him. The best time was early in the morning when he took his “daily constitutional” walk. Walking along with him was a great way to get to know how “down to earth” he was, and how much he valued every person.

    Some of that comes through strongly in Baime’s book, which has as its primary focus the four months after Truman is thrust into the job by the death of Franklin De

    I met former President Harry S. Truman when he spent several days at my college. If you wanted to chat you could just walk up to him. The best time was early in the morning when he took his “daily constitutional” walk. Walking along with him was a great way to get to know how “down to earth” he was, and how much he valued every person.

    Some of that comes through strongly in Baime’s book, which has as its primary focus the four months after Truman is thrust into the job by the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It would have been a whole lot easier if FDR had taken any steps to prepare Truman for that possibility. Aside from sending him a congratulatory note on election night he did almost nothing.

    I have read some excellent biographies of Truman. Among them are Merle Miller’s Plain Speaking and Truman by David McCullough. I believe it was McCullough that quoted Harry’s cousin as noting that he was 'always' a late bloomer. He didn't marry until he was 35...so, why should it surprise for him to first arrive in Washington in his early 50's?

    Baime does fine work in describing those first months of Truman’s presidency. He also devotes a large portion of the book to Truman’s early life, army experience, etc. That, while adequately covered, is outside the scope Baime sets in his title and seems more filler than “real meat.”

    Yet his description of the campaign is entertaining: "The candidate’s appeal was his everyman persona. He was your neighbor, or the guy standing on line at the pharmacy, who just happened to be running for VP. Truman was “one of the most amazing stories in American democracy,” wrote one Boston Globe reporter. “It is the story of an average man, swept to dizzy heights against his will, a little bewildered by it all and doubting whether it is really true.” His message was a simple one: Now, in the climactic moments of the world war, was not the time to change chief executives."

    And he notes the seemingly missed irony in one of his campaign speeches when he wanted to contrast the Republican, Dewey, with Roosevelt. "In early November the train pulled into Kansas City. In front of his hometown crowd, Truman delivered the most ironic sentence of his life: “Ask yourself if you want a man with no experience to sit at the peace table with Churchill, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek." I guess nobody thought Harry was describing himself.

    For a man who was practically dropped into the Presidency, Truman swam rather than sunk. The country did just fine with his leadership and he had some very tough decisions to make. I found the immediacy that Baime conveys about those few months well worthwhile, and if the rest wasn’t as eye-popping as Miller’s or McCullough’s books, well you could always read one of those as well.

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